One year difference Blog

03.07.2021 Lili Gundacker


one of the first sunsets I saw in Molfetta

Today is the 2nd of July 2021. Exactly one year ago, on the 2nd of July 2020 I embarked on the biggest adventure of my life, so far. I started my journey to do a voluntary service in Molfetta, in the wonderful south of Italy.

Living abroad is a very intense experience. From the new culture and the language to a completely foreign environment, it quite literally is like starting anew. For me it was very empowering to start from zero in a new country. I was able to choose my friends, my routine, the groceries I shopped, the places I visited. This might sound like things we all choose for ourselves, but for me it became clear that a lot of the things I did and the places I visited back home were because of habit, because it just was like that. Now, after being back home for just two days, I notice how easy it is to go back to old routines, habits and patterns of behavior, our environment simply influences our actions. However, I want to hold onto what I learned during the past year. I want to take that independence, that openness to the world and the curiosity to explore new places and people with me. And I will. Because even though it’s easy to go back to certain habits and patterns, I know more of who I am and what I want now.

What I’m trying to tell you, possible volunteer, is that by participating in a voluntary service, you don’t just get to evolve on a professional level, but especially on a personal level. You get the chance to really get to know yourself, at times you will spend quite a bit of time with yourself, which can be frightening but, in the end, very rewarding. You get to be in control of your own decisions, your own life. That is coming from a 20 year-old that until last year lived at her childhood home, so take it or leave it.

Apart of the personal development that happens, if you want it or not, this experience makes it possible to meet wonderful, open-minded, funny, warm, compassionate and also crazy, in a good way, people. The social aspect was definitely one of the most essential ones for me. The people I made real, honest connections with became my family, my support system. Without them I couldn’t have done it.

Last but not least, I want to tell you about Molfetta, the rather small (I’m from Vienna so it is rather small for me) city where you are going to, hopefully, spend the next months. I have to say, in my case I fell in love with Molfetta the day I arrived. The climate, although brutal in summer and winter, is wonderful, the sunsets look like paintings every.single.evening., the people are warm and kind-hearted, the food is cheap and so good, the lungo mare is there to take slow walks at any given time, the lighthouse is an art in and of itself, the city is alive every night, you almost never get bored, the coffee is amazing and the list goes on. What I enjoyed the most about the south however, is the way people live in the moment. They don’t run to get somewhere in time, they don’t live after their calendar, they live in the now. It can happen that you meet a friendly familiar face and you have a spontaneous chat of at least half an hour, also during working hours. This energy is what I strive to take with me, even to the hectic live of the “north”. It is slow living. Enjoying. Breathing. Laughing. And feeling the sun kiss your skin. This is what living in the south of Italy felt like to me.

So, what more can I say? You should take this leap of faith, even if it’s scary, even if everything is unknown. The fact that you read until here, shows that deep down you know that you should do it. Only by taking the risk will you see how it turns out. “If there is no risk, there is no reward”- Christy Raedeke